The four-time Major winner won “Africa’s Major” in 1999, 2000 and 2002 and is a member of an exclusive club of only four players – Els, David Frost, Nick Price and Lee Westwood – to have won the Nedbank Golf Challenge three times.
As a proud South African, who is flying the mzansi flag high on the international radar, is the oldest to feature in this year’s NGC.
His return to SA is coupled with many in his mind including being captain of the International Team in the upcoming Presidents Cup.
“Yeah, I’m going to be playing on the Champions Tour for next year. I just turned 50 in October, so I’m looking forward to January. I’m just playing some events around the globe now and then it’s the Presidents Cup. So my focus is really getting my team ready for the Presidents Cup. But playing here on home soil with so many great memories that I’ve had at Sun City is great.”
Els still holds the record for the lowest tournament total in the history of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, and which came in his first victory in this event in 1999. His 25-under-par total that year improved by one shot the previous record of 24-under-par by Nick Price in 1993.
Then came a playoff victory over Westwood for his 2000 triumph, and an eight-shot victory in 2002.
“I’ve done well here in the past and I’m hitting it nice. But you know, the golf course is getting longer and I’m not the player I used to be. But you know, hey, if I get hot, it will be great. If not, I just want to have a nice week, enjoy the fans, the surroundings, the golf course and feed off the good memories I’ve had.”
Els will also get the opportunity to meet with players such as Branden Grace and Erik Van Rooyen, whom he did not chose for the Presidents Cup.
Both Grace and Van Rooyen feature in this year’s NGC line-up.
“It was a tough one. I didn’t enjoy it to be honest. There were many guys in there, especially a lot of my really close friends. Branden Grace was right there, so that was really tough for me to do. Erik Van Rooyen started playing great. It was tough to do that, not getting him on the team.
Those are really difficult calls to make. But I had to go with what I believe in, and it’s for the best interests of the team. But I really felt for those guys,” he quipped with a sore-heart.
Well, having completed their trophy tour world cup rugby champs Boks players could pop in at Sun City to let their hair down, never know!
Image (The return of a legend. Ernie Els will grace this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City).